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A couple of years ago I started bringing my folding bike (well, one of my folding bikes) to conferences, and in Chicago the bike was particularly fun to have. I rode in the mornings, mainly— along the lake, through various neighborhoods, back-and-forth between my hotel and Whole Foods—and all the riding helped me process the social and intellectual input.
On bike around town and on foot at the conference resulted in
Best Bike Ride:
Wednesday afternoon, after settling into hotel-1 and finding I had no obligations until the evening, a long ride north along the lake shore, then cutting back through various northern neighborhoods, and back to downtown. Chicago is a great cycling city with plenty of gritty biketivists.
Best Sculpture Wearing Glasses:
Cheryl Glenn during and after her talk about silence and rhetoric. This was a great talk for many reasons, but since the award is for humor, I should explain that Cheryl gets this award for her exquisitely dry delivery.
In case you missed this panel, Glenn made arguments for silence as a productive and active participatory tactic/role in conversation and interchange, and thus instrumental in rhetoric as social activity and knowledge creation (oh: also conflict resolution and collaboration). In addition, there was a nice recognition that silence is often an active element in rhetorical expressive arts, some of them bodily (here she turned to the example of last year's International Women's Day protests). This was a great talk and a synergetic panel.
Hottest, Stuffiest, Most Oxygen-Deprived Room:
Jean Ferguson Carr, John Peterson, Susan Miller, and Melissa A. Goldthwaite's panel on "emotional work" and composition. I stood in the back through much of this, swaying, sweating, and then getting periodically banged on the back by the door (that kept opening and closing throughout the presentations). As a result I think I only partially caught what was being said. Carr's talk was neat, or perhaps I should say my oxygen-deprived interpretation of her talk was neat, as it came out of her recent book (I'm guessing), a project about 19th-century writing text books, and confirmed my theory that reading 19th-century texts to an audience brings about laughter 98% of the time. (Aside: This award could alternatively be called "panelists and audience members with the most tolerance for sweat and overcrowding"—as it seemed everyone kept in good spirits though jammed into such a hot and stuffy room.)
(Aside: if I ever plan a conference, it will be outside.)
Most Bloggers in One Physical Place Award:
Blogging SIG meeting on Friday eve, hosted graciously and instructively by Clancy and Mike. I think we may have all been a bit worn down by the time of the meeting, but it was a good session and moved, I think, in ways that will publicize and complicate research and practice relating to using blogs in the classroom.
While I plan to post more on this topic (here and possibly elsewhere), I should note that my own interest in writing and talking about blogs as pedagogical tools is waning. This is not to say that I don't think teaching with and about blogs is productive, and I certainly plan to continue to bring blogs into my classes when it seems useful, but I'm currently like way more interested in 1) the architectural rhetoric of blogs as technological writing template.appliances, and 2) the study of how new concepts emerge through blog-action/interaction using such writing tools.
A steaming bowl of hoppin' john at Wish Bone with BP, KE, and Brian Ballentine who offered a smart critique of Lessiginian support for ©-crushing. Not at dinner, but in his talk, Brian used an example of textual recirculation with a difference (tweaked code) that led to a major medical screw up. This reminded me of a post or paper (not sure which yet) I've been wanting to work up critiquing a related but different portion of Lessig's rhetoric (which I think mis-characterizes forms of appropriation relating to anti-capitalist art).
That tired salad I carried around in my bag all day on Thursday and only had a chance to eat at about 4:30. Academic conferences may be too little about food.
Most Productively Complex Talk:
Patricia William's televisually-echoed big-ballroom lecture. Working from the simple typed page (no film here, no Powerpoint, no podcast—just a woman reading a text to a crowd) Williams collaged together:
- a roving critique of compu-culture and compu-life, characterizing new technologies as inhibiting rich interpersonal connections. Here she described her law students sitting behind their tipped-up screens imputing notes while she lectures, and through that critique gained traction to move
- to a discussion of genetic profiling and the commodification of Ivy League human eggs. There were many un-revealed warrants in her discussion, but the fever pitch of her possibly paranoiac views helped her move into two other topics that worked to characterize 2005:
- a personal narrative of disassembly and being forced to sell her family home. This then precipitated a parallel story about moving her father into a nursing home and how that denaturing at first ruined his cultural practices (mainly sartorial), and
- a meditation on the recent depopulating of New Orleans, complete with a prognostication that oil rigs will extractively loom where neighborhoods once nourished the landscape.
While KE remarked over that yummy dinner (mentioned above) that she "wasn't sure what to do with [William's lecture]," I felt I was already doing things with it as, as a complex text defined by the poetic fragment, Williams composed for us possibility in writing, public address, the personal, complexity, and interwoven verbal collage. This is, of course, the kind of stuff Williams is so good at.
Last to present on his panel and crunched for time, Geoffrey Sirc, clutching his paper before him, read at 90mph through a cascading set of ideas (poetically written: it's Sirc after all). He read and read and read like a blast of Sircian air blowing hard into the conference, drying up the recesses of CCCC that still call for "clarity!" and the other tired mantras of the service-writing classroom.
90 mph, 90 mph came that wind, first forming descriptions about 1960s minimalist sculpture from which, in characteristic fashion, he pulled a concept—serial syntax: a syntax which focuses on attention to the element, the cut, the part ... not the larger constructed whole—which allowed him to then move into comp.history (Kitzhaberian) to move, once again, (90 mph, 90 mph) to an argument in favor of sublimity over persuasion (or maybe sublimity in addition to persuasion) as illustrated by the serial syntax of the mix tape and its successor the playlist. Fast fast fast the wind is blowing. And we tracked him, in and out of example and idea to watch the project unfold that he's labored on for years now: to reinvent the tired landscape of the writing classroom.
Best Bird of the Conference:
Though I scoped some lovely grebes bobbing around in Lake Michigan (I hazard to say that they were Clark's, but I'm never completely certain when it comes to making Greater/Clark's designations—esp. w/out binos), and a Barrow's Golden Eye or two, and some feisty urbanerific White-crowned Sparrows scratching out a living in Millennium Park, the Best Bird of the Conference Award goes to this little Cardinal, singing its heart out before the edifice of Sears Tower.